Connecting research and policy: how linkages support the use of research evidence in social policymaking

van der Arend, Jenny (2016). Connecting research and policy: how linkages support the use of research evidence in social policymaking PhD Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2016.1128

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Author van der Arend, Jenny
Thesis Title Connecting research and policy: how linkages support the use of research evidence in social policymaking
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2016.1128
Publication date 2016-11-18
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Brian Head
Paul Boreham
Adrian Cherney
Total pages 312
Language eng
Subjects 1606 Political Science
1605 Policy and Administration
Formatted abstract
The notion that policymaking should be informed by evidence has been an attractive one to both government decision-makers and the community alike in recent years (Banks, 2009; Cherney & Head 2010; Nutley et al, 2007). The pursuit of “more” and/or “better” relationships has consistently been championed as an important strategy to improve the use of a research evidence base for social policy and practice (Nutley et al, 2007; Lavis, 2010; Bogenschneider & Corbett, 2010; Ross, 2011; Shergold, 2011). These relationships are often referred to as “linkages” in the literature, and it is recognised they can be diverse in form (Nutley et al, 2007; Weiss, 1995).

A strong association between linkages and research utilisation has been found by a number of empirical studies reported in the literature (for example, Landry et al, 2001a, 2001b; Landry et al, 2003; Cherney & McGee, 2011). Many more studies identify linkages as a facilitator for research use or report that a lack of linkages is a key barrier to research uptake (Innvaer et al, 2002; Helmsley-Brown, 2004; Mitton et al, 2007; Oliver et al, 2014). However, very little work has been undertaken to systematically identify how linkages between university academics and social policy-makers shape key processes associated with evidence-based policy-making.

This PhD research project used a mixed methods approach, drawing on data gathered via large-scale survey and interview processes with Australian social scientist academics and public servant policymakers, to investigate:
• the types of linkages are predominant between academics and policy makers;

• the key barriers to and facilitators for developing and sustaining linkages;
• how linkages relate to a capacity for research utilisation in policy making contexts; and
• how linkages can be enhanced to support the policy uptake of social research evidence.

A wide range of linkage arrangements were identified from the data sources. The character and scope of participation in linkage relationships was shaped by a range of interacting, context-dependent factors, including the political environment, dominant paradigms about the role of government in shaping policy and program provision within a sector, differences in infrastructure and resourcing between policy sectors and departments, and the culture, norms and values within policymaking organisations.

The findings of multiple linear regression models applied to academic and policy official survey data revealed a strong association between participation in linkage activities and research utilisation.

Linkages were found to build academic and policy official capacities separately, by enhancing individual and organisational knowledge, skills and approaches for research production and use. However, linkages were also found to underpin the development of important new joint capacities, such as the capacity to efficiently and effectively co-produce research. Importantly, both policy officials and academics highlighted the value of linkages for creating the mutual trust, respect and “common ground” that meant they had the confidence to capitalise on the additional capacities their relationships provided for them.

Policy officials and academics reported how linkage relationships required significant investment in the first instance, but become more self-sustaining as mutual trust, respect, knowledge and skills were grown over time. Thus, in addition to their role in shaping more well-developed capacities for research production and use, linkages also build capacities that enhance linkages.

Finally, this research project identified a number of clear ways that linkages support building “reservoirs” of policy-relevant research, and creating a profile for these. Academics and policy officials noted how their relationships helped them to monitor policy contexts and then mobilise research resources effectively as policy opportunities arose. In doing so, linkages create a much greater potential for research to play a role in shaping policy directions and implementation. Such functions for linkages have not been an overt consideration to date in theoretical frameworks attempting to explain EBP.

The thesis concludes by drawing on the findings of the project to offer an inductively developed, evidence-based model that captures a more integrated way of understanding the influence of linkages in social policymaking. The development of this model provides a rationale for supporting an ongoing investment in linkages in policymaking contexts. The model also provides a strong foundation for future work to explore how linkages can be employed more strategically across a full range of policymaking contexts to enhance EBP.
Keyword Research utilisation
Evidence-based policy
Research relationships
Knowledge mobilisation
Knowledge brokering
Policy officials

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Fri, 11 Nov 2016, 23:28:20 EST by Jenny Van Der Arend on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)